Expedition Exhibition

[Image: Venue at SPUR].

For those of you into road trips, nuclear waste, petroglyphs, 19th-century geographic survey teams, remote military simulations, abandoned rocket fuel facilities, Hollow Earth cults, and more, there is only one week left to catch the Venue exhibition over at SPUR in San Francisco.

[Image: Venue at SPUR].

The show documents and looks back at a 16-month collaboration for the Nevada Museum of Art between myself and Edible Geography, collecting not only the special survey instruments we made for the trip with designer Chris Woebken but various ephemera from the travels we picked up along the way.

[Image: Instruments designed by Chris Woebken for Venue].

Over the course of multiple, discontinuous trips throughout the United States—primarily focused on the West—we visited landfills, military bases, nuclear waste disposal sites, atomic clocks, underground neutrino detectors, the world’s largest organism in the mountains of eastern Oregon, the factory where AstroTurf is made, NASA’s “Mars Yard” in Pasadena, the awesomely eccentric Mercer Museum, an elevator-testing tower, the Central Park bolt, a Navy SEAL museum, and a subterranean radon health spa, to name only a handful.

[Image: Venue at SPUR].

Along the way, we interviewed novelists, National Park Service curators, speleobiologists, artists, game designers, the makers of monsters, historians of light pollution, archivists, aerial photographers, and more.

[Images: Venue at SPUR].

The exhibition closes next week, on October 21. Stop by if you can!

Landscape Futures Arrives

[Image: Internal title page from Landscape Futures; book design by Everything-Type-Company].

At long last, after a delay from the printer, Landscape Futures: Instruments, Devices and Architectural Inventions is finally out and shipping internationally.

I am incredibly excited about the book, to be honest, and about the huge variety of content it features, including an original essay by Elizabeth Ellsworth & Jamie Kruse of Smudge Studio, a short piece of landscape fiction by Pushcart Prize-winning author Scott Geiger, and a readymade course outline—open for anyone looking to teach a course on oceanographic instrumentation—by Mammoth’s Rob Holmes.

These join reprints of classic texts by geologist Jan Zalasiewicz, on the incipient fossilization of our cities 100 million years from now; a look at the perverse history of weather warfare and the possibility of planetary-scale climate manipulation by James Fleming; and a brilliant analysis of the Temple of Dendur, currently held deep in the controlled atmosphere of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, and its implications for architectural preservation elsewhere.

And even these are complemented by an urban hiking tour by the Center for Land Use Interpretation that takes you up into the hills of Los Angeles to visit check dams, debris basins, radio antennas, and cell phone towers, and a series of ultra-short stories set in a Chicago yet to come by Pruned‘s Alexander Trevi.

[Images: A few spreads from the “Landscape Futures Sourcebook” featured in Landscape Futures; book design by Everything-Type-Company].

Of course, everything just listed supplements and expands on the heart of the book, which documents the eponymous exhibition hosted at the Nevada Museum of Art, featuring specially commissioned work by Smout Allen, David Gissen, and The Living, and pre-existing work by Liam Young, Chris Woebken & Kenichi Okada, and Lateral Office.

Extensive original interviews with the exhibiting architects and designers, and a long curator’s essay—describing the exhibition’s focus on the intermediary devices, instruments, and spatial machines that can fundamentally transform how human beings perceive and understand the landscapes around them—complete the book, in addition to hundreds of images, many maps, and an extensive use of metallic and fluorescent inks.

The book is currently only $17.97 on Amazon.com, as well, which seems like an almost unbelievable deal; now is an awesome time to buy a copy.

[Images: Interview spreads from Landscape Futures; book design by Everything-Type-Company].

In any case, I’ve written about Landscape Futures here before, and an exhaustive preview of it can be seen in this earlier post.

I just wanted to put up a notice that the book is finally shipping worldwide, with a new publication date of August 2013, and I look forward to hearing what people think. Enjoy!

Landscape Futures

[Images: The cover of Landscape Futures; book design by Brooklyn’s Everything-Type-Company].

I’m enormously pleased to say that a book project long in the making will finally see the light of day later this month, a collaboration between ACTAR and the Nevada Museum of Art called Landscape Futures: Instruments, Devices and Architectural Inventions.

On a related note, I’m also happy to say simply, despite the painfully slow pace of posts here on the blog, going back at least the last six months or so, that many projects ticking away in the background are, at long last, coming to fruition, including Venue, and, now, the publication of Landscape Futures.

[Images: The opening spreads of Landscape Futures; book design by Everything-Type-Company].

Landscape Futures both documents and continues an exhibition of the same name that ran for a bit more than six months at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, from August 2011 to February 2012. The exhibition was my first solo commission as a curator and by far the largest project I had worked on to that point. It was an incredible opportunity, and I remain hugely excited by the physical quality and conceptual breadth of the work produced by the show’s participating artists and architects.

Best of all, I was able to commission brand new work from many of the contributors, including giving historian David Gissen a new opportunity to explore his ideas—on preservation, technology, and the environmental regulation of everyday urban space—in a series of wall-sized prints; finding a new genre—a fictional travelogue from a future lithium boom—with The Living; and setting aside nearly an entire room, the centerpiece of the 2,500-square-foot exhibition, for an immensely complicated piece of functioning machinery (plus documentary photographs, posters, study-models, an entire bound book of research, and much else besides) by London-based architects Smout Allen.

Those works joined pre-existing projects by Mason White & Lola Sheppard of Lateral Office and InfraNet Lab, whose project “Next North/The Active Layer” explored the emerging architectural conditions presented by climate-changed terrains in the far north; Chris Woebken & Kenichi Okada, whose widely exhibited “Animal Superpowers” added a colorful note to the exhibition’s second room; and architect-adventurer Liam Young, who brought his “Specimens of Unnatural History” successfully through international customs to model the warped future ecosystem of a genetically-enhanced Galapagos.

[Images: More spreads from Landscape Futures; book design by Everything-Type-Company].

But the book also expands on that core of both new and pre-existing work to include work by Rob Holmes, Alex Trevi (edited from their original appearance on Pruned), a travelogue through the lost lakes of the American West by Smudge Studio, a walking tour through the electromagnetic landscapes of Los Angeles by the Center for Land Use Interpretation, and a new short story by Pushcart Prize-winning author Scott Geiger.

These, in turn, join reprints of texts highly influential for the overall Landscape Futures project, including a short history of climate control technologies and weather warfare by historian James Fleming, David Gissen‘s excellent overview of the atmospheric preservation of artifacts in museums in New York City (specifically, the Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum of Art), and a classic article—from BLDGBLOG’s perspective, at least—originally published in New Scientist back in 1998, where geologist Jan Zalasiewicz suggests a number of possibilities for the large-scale fossilization of entire urban landscapes in the Earth’s far future.

Even that’s not the end of the book, however, which is then further augmented by a long look, in the curator’s essay, at the various technical and metaphoric implications of the instruments, devices, and architectural inventions of the book’s subtitle, from robot-readable geotextiles and military surveillance technologies to the future of remote-sensing in archaeology, and moving between scales as divergent as plate-tectonic tomography, radio astronomical installations in the the polar north, and speculative laser-jamming objects designed by ScanLAB Projects.

To wrap it all up and connect the conceptual dots set loose across the book, detailed interviews with all of the exhibition’s participating artists, writers, and architects fill out the book’s long middle—and, in all cases, I can’t wait to get these out there, as they are all conversations that deserve continuation in other formats. The responses from David Gissen alone could fuel an entire graduate seminar.

The spreads and images you see here all come directly from the book.

[Images: Spreads from Landscape Futures; book design by Everything-Type-Company].

Of course, the work itself also takes up a large section in the final third or so of the book; consisting mostly of photographs by Jamie Kingham and Dean Burton, these document the exhibition contents in their full, spatial context, including the double-height, naturally lit room in which the ceiling-mounted machinery of Smout Allen whirred away for six months. This is also where full-color spreads enter the book, offering a nice pop after all the pink that came before.

[Images: Installation shots from the Nevada Museum of Art, by Jamie Kingham and Dean Burton, including other views, from posters to renderings, from Landscape Futures; book design by Everything-Type-Company].

Which brings us, finally, to the Landscape Futures Sourcebook, the final thirty or forty pages of the book, filled with the guest essays, travelogues, walking tours, photographs, a speculative future course brief by Rob Holmes of Mammoth, and the aforementioned short story by Scott Geiger.

[Images: A few spreads from the Landscape Futures Sourcebook featured in Landscape Futures; book design by Everything-Type-Company].

Needless to say, I am absolutely thrilled with the incredible design work done by Everything-Type-Company—a new and rapidly rising design firm based in Brooklyn, founded by Kyle Blue and Geoff Halber—and I am also over the moon to think that this material will finally be out there for discussion elsewhere. It’s been a long, long time in the making.

In any case, shipping should begin later this month. Hopefully the above glimpses, and the huge list of people whose graphic, textual, or conceptual work is represented in the book, will entice you to support their effort with an order.


(Thank you to all the people and organizations who made Landscape Futures possible, including the Nevada Museum of Art and ACTAR, supported generously by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Study in the Fine Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts).

Art + Environment, Landscape Futures, and a Million Reasons to Visit Reno

[Image: From Modeling the Universe by Linda Fleming, courtesy of the Nevada Museum of Art].

The Nevada Museum of Art’s Center for Art + Environment—which, three years after its founding, “remains the only research institute in the world devoted to the subject of creative interactions with natural, built, and virtual environments”—is hosting its second Art + Environment Conference this year.

The line-up is incredible. From 29 September-1 October, at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, expect to hear from Edward Burtynksy (whose extraordinary Oil series will be on display at the museum in 2012), Chris Jordan, Amy Franceschini, Fritz Haeg, Jorge Pardo, Alexander Rose of the Long Now Foundation, Newton & Helen Mayer Harrison, Leo Villareal, William L. Fox, and nearly two dozen others, including a panel featuring architects Liam Young, from Tomorrow’s Thoughts Today, and Mark Smout & Laura Allen, authors of Pamphlet Architecture #28: Augmented Landscapes, moderated by none other than Bruce Sterling.

Expect to hear about such topics as “Designing for Longevity,” “Designing the Wild and Cultivating the City,” “Designing Architectures for Environmental Change,” “Farming in the Future,” and “Altering the Landscape,” among many others, including an announcement from Nicola Twilley and I about a major cultural and landscape research project we will be undertaking together in 2012.

The Museum has also recently announced a discounted student rate for conference tickets, so definitely consider attending; Reno is presumably not a city you would otherwise find yourself passing through on a regular basis, but it’s not a bad drive up from San Francisco, Las Vegas, or even Los Angeles, and there will be tons to see and do.

Also on display at the Nevada Museum of Art during the conference, for instance, will be a massive show called The Altered Landscape: Photographs of a Changing Environment, whose gorgeous, full-color catalog published by Rizzoli and featuring contributions by Lucy Lippard and W.J.T. Mitchell, will also be available at the Conference.

[Image: The Altered Landscape: Photographs of a Changing Environment edited by Ann M. Wolfe].

You can then walk down the hall to see Fog Garden: The Architecture of Water. Quoting at length:

People have been using dew from fog as a source of drinking water for centuries, but it wasn’t until the 1950s that scientists in Chile and elsewhere began measuring the moisture content of clouds and designing structures to collect it.
During the last five years, several groups of architects have been testing small models of fog collectors in the Atacama Desert, a place where it has not rained in recorded history, and fog is the only source of moisture.
Working with the Atacama Desert Center and students from the Catholic University in Santiago, architect Rodrigo Pérez de Arce is overseeing the creation of models for a large-scale complex of structures, the Fog Garden, that would collect enough water to both support a garden and satisfy the needs of a nearby village. This exhibition is the first time these structures have been displayed, and along with sample building materials and documentation, form an archive that is important to artists, architects, and scientists.

And then onward from there to see Shirin Neshat’s film Passage

[Images: From Passage by Shirin Neshat, courtesy of the Nevada Museum of Art].

—before stopping in to see Linda Fleming’s awesomely intricate “models of the universe.”

[Image: From Modeling the Universe by Linda Fleming, courtesy of the Nevada Museum of Art].

And that’s barely half of what will be on display during the conference.

You’ll also be able to see Sierra Nevada: An Adaptation by Newton & Helen Mayer Harrison; that will consist of “a 30-foot-long map of the mountain range, topographical sketches of its seventeen principal watersheds, and aerial photographs of sites in the Truckee and Yuba watersheds.”

Australia’s Murray River, a “series of sustainable design solutions” exploring “overlaps and adjacencies between architecture and landscape” by conference presenter Richard Black, will also be on display nearby.

Not last—as there will be several smaller exhibitions up, as well—and, I hope, also not least, is Landscape Futures: Instruments, Devices and Architectural Inventions. Landscape Futures features work by a group of absolute all-stars:

—David Benjamin & Soo-in Yang from The Living
—Mark Smout & Laura Allen from Smout Allen
David Gissen
—Mason White & Lola Sheppard from Lateral Office & InfraNet Lab
Chris Woebken
Liam Young

[Image: “Electric Aurora” by Liam Young, from Specimens of Unnatural History].

I am especially honored to be the curator of this exhibition, able to have commissioned new work from many of the exhibitors, and to be the editor of a forthcoming book that will document the exhibition in full, including last winter’s Landscape Futures Super-Workshop. That book will feature several outside contributions, and is being designed by Atley G. Kasky of, among other things, but does it float.

I will be writing more about both the exhibition and the book soon, but keep it on your radar, if it sounds like something that might be of interest.

[Image: From The Active Layer by Lateral Office; photo by Michelle Litvin].

In any case, there are a million reasons to attend the Center for Art + Environment Conference this year, as I hope the above post makes clear; consider getting a group of friends or colleagues together to spend the weekend up in Reno, a city you might not otherwise be visiting any time soon (and where you can wear bald eagle t-shirts with abandon and gamble till the sun comes up—not to mention visit the National Bowling Stadium), and dive into an incredible range of exhibitions, talks, and programs.

Further, if you’re a student or educator, also think about the possibility of bringing a whole class to attend; between the conference participants and the museum’s exhibitions, think of it as a weekend super-workshop for art, architecture, and the global environment.

Read more at the conference website.